Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rich Man Poor Man

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article

Rich man. Poor man. Beggar man. Thief. Doctor. Lawyer. Indian chief. From my recollection, these occupations/titles were designators in a child's poem for buttons that would foretell the clothing-wearer's fate. (Never mind that people don't wear only one article of clothing for life.) Scrapbook.com and phrases.org.uk have some overlapping background information.

The scrapbook.com reference mentions the poem as a chant, that the landing button is the occupation of the future spouse. As another use for the chant is to find the "it" person in a game. ("Tag, you're it" comes to mind.) The methodology of determination reminded me a lot of "one potato, two potato", the countoffs starting the same way.
All players put their fisted hands together in a circle and one person starts the chant by tapping each fist in succession. When "Indian Chief" is said, the person whose fist is tapped puts that fist behind their back. Then the chant starts again with the chanter starting with someone else in the cirle [sic]. As soon as one person has both hands out of the circle they are "It".
At mamalisa.com, the game-instructions for one-potato-two-potato countoff indicate the similarity to scrapbook.com's button countoff.
All of the kids put our their two fists. One kid goes around tapping the other kids' fists with his fist. The one whose fist he ends the rhyme on is out (that kid puts that fist behind his back). Then go around again and again until only one fist is left. The one that is left at the end of all the rounds is "It".
In phrases.org.uk, pits from fruit on game players' plates—rather than their clothing buttons—determine the "it" person. In an indication of ingrained tradition, the occupation/title applies to males only; if the game players are female, "it" is the occupation/title of their future husband. In another difference from scrapbook.com, phrases.org.uk lists occupations as tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief.

For more variations of countoff chants and occupations, visit Wikipedia's tinker-tailor page.

Rich man poor man—that phrase is so well-known, I sense many people could mentally finish reciting the rest of the best-known parts of the poem. It's so well-known, an Emmy-award winning mini-series titled Rich Man Poor Man broadcast in 1976 , thereby providing a feedback loop for familiarity between the mini-series and the poem.

I've thought about songs that tie in with the poem, not initially knowing about tinker, tailor, soldier and sailor. I offer the following for viewing (as much as possible) and listening entertainment:
Rich Man
If I were a Rich Man, [musical video clip, uncredited artist]
Poor Man
Poor Side of Town, Johnny Rivers
Rag Doll, Four Seasons
Beggar Man
Ain't Too Proud to Beg, Temptations
Beggin', Four Seasons
Baby Please Don't Go, Them/Van Morrison
Steal Away, Robbie Dupree
Good Lovin', Olympics
Doctor Doctor, Robert Palmer
Lawyers in Love, Jackson Browne
Indian Chief
Cherokee Nation, Paul Revere and the Raiders
Spirit in the Sky, Norman Greenbaum
Universal Soldier, Buffy St. Marie
Sailing, Christopher Cross
Sail Away, Enya
If I were a Carpenter, Bobby Darin
One song that contains nearly all the occupations of the poem is the Yardbirds' "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor". Occupations listed in the lyrics are as follows:
tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, baker, fine shoe-maker, wise man, madman, taxman
I am unable to find a song that refers to "tailor" as an occupation; however, the Searchers' "Needles and Pins" might be as close I find for a thematic fit because of the implements. Sew, in closing, I hope I will have provided enough entertainment, enlightenment, and a-muse-meant in this article to suit visitors.


Anonymous said...

Tinker,Tailor,Soldire,Spy,...Rich Man, Poor Man,
beggerman, Thief,... Doctor, Lawyer, Indian chief...Oh what a blast from the past, jumping rope on the sidewalks of Boston. I think I was
to marry a sailor as I was usually "out" in double dutch jumping by the time he always arrived...Great fun, the 50's in Boston...sort of I remember Mama'ish, like when the smell of Chocolate in the air ment Rain was on the way not polution. The Walter Baker Chocolate Factory was down wind except when it would rain, gone but not forgotten by this Baby Boomer....

LOOK,SEE ANOTHER MOVE TITLE, I could go on and on.....Later

whilldtkwriter said...

Revisited and revised links to music videos, and replaced and added links to the YouTube playlist at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC46FFD15C5202C5F.

whilldtkwriter said...

Thanks for compliments! Sorry to be so late replying. Did you see the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy movie that came out?

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